Ford Escort '87: Engine Starvation?

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I have a problem with my Ford Escort ’87, 1.9 L, fuel injection, automatic transmission. The general description of the problem would be: it does not feel like gas pedal is connected firmly to the fuel system. I believe it’s called engine starvation, but here are the symptoms, describing it as exactly as I could. Sometimes, it all runs fine, but sometimes when you push accelerator down, the bad things start to happen, which is either or combination of those:

The car does not accelerate at all, slight jerky motion in engine.
The car slows down slightly
The car does not accelerate, maybe only very slightly, and the tachometer gauge starts to jerk to and from , about +/- 500 rpms or +/- 2000 rpms.
The car does not accelerate, shifts to the lower gear, jerks from slowdown, starts to accelerate after.

I think the problem is getting worse, because it used to happen only on the highway, about 60 mph, now it happens all the time. Interestingly enough, when car is just started and not heated up yet, things are not that bad. So, it’s getting worse to the point when it’s literally painful to drive :ohcrap: , because you don’t know how the car is going to react next time you push the accelerator :banghead: .

Funny thing is I just had one problem fixed: the hose that goes from injection chamber to the air/fuel mixture sensor was broken and the car was eating fuel like cakes (8 miles a gallon), but it did not have the current problem that I have.

Recently, I have changed the sparkplugs, distributor caps. A fuel filter was changed a while ago, and new fuel pump had been installed about 1.5 years ago. So, what could it be? How to distinguish whether it's a fuel pump/filter or something else (transmission maybe)?

Thank you very much for your help,

posted by  chronomaster

I don't know anything about this particalar car and how it's designed so I'm going to assume a few things. From when you said "fuel injection chamber" I'm going to think this is an early FI system with a barrel injection system. Since it was getting horrible gas mileage, i'm going so lean towards bad injectors as your problem.

posted by  DodgeRida67

The first thing I would do is with the engine idling, take a can of carb cleaner, 3 in 1 oil or something like that (this stuff is flammable so be careful) and spray it around the intake manifold to engine block gasket area, the throttle body to intake area, etc and see if there are vacume leaks - if the idle changes, there is a vacume leak in the area where the carb cleaner was sprayed.

Bad fuel injectors is another possible issue

posted by  tbaxleyjr

what about the fuel filter, guys?
on an old car, it could really be bunged up.

posted by  shekky

I have replaced it about a year ago... Could that high consumption problem be a reason for a premature fuel filter clogging?

posted by  chronomaster

This was also fixed recently, did exactly the thing. Vacuum leaks were there a bit, now fixed.

posted by  chronomaster

Fuel pump has been fixed, no vacume leaks.

plugs, dist cap replaced, wires good

most likely happens when car is warm

Is the check engine light on or does it come on when the car acts up? This will give more clues

What you describing can have several causes. The reason I was asking about vacume leaks, etc was these type issue need resolution before much more diagnosis can happen.

These are some things you can do to help troubleshoot your car.

1. Use a vacume gage on a manifold (Not Ported) vacume source and tell what the gage reads and how it fluctuates (if any) @ idle, and how it acts when you snap the throttle to about 2500 rpm and back to idle What is supposed to happen, @ idle if the engine is healthy, you should see between 17 or 18 inch vacume to 20-21 inch vacume with the needle holding steady. If you snap the throttle from idle to 2500 and back, the vacume will drop to 5 inches then swing to 22 to 25 inches then settle down to idle again. If anything besided those things happen, you need to do some further investigating such as a compression/leak down test, etc.

2. Obtain an adjustable HEI plug tester from Autozone and verify your ignition system is generating adequate voltage (eliminating causes) to fire.

3. Obtain the trouble codes from the ECM

4. Clean the EGR valve and verify proper operation (1/16 to 1/8 in movement upon application of 6 in vacume) and verify the vacume diaphram in the valve operator does not leak - these will sometimes cause problems and not set trouble codes

posted by  tbaxleyjr

I know I may sound like an idiot, but I had similar symptomps and it was just spark plug wires loose... however it's probably not the case, since you changed the spark plugs...


posted by  skolicki

plug wires can also cause these type of issues - As part of a good tune-up, the resistance should be checked with an ohm meter (4000 ohms/ft or 20000 ohms max) and the insulation inspected for cracks, chafing, etc)

The ignition tester is calibrated to ensure a HEI or other modern ignition system is delivering 30000 - 40000 volts to the spark plug which is required with the lean fuel mixtures cars are running. It will not detect insulation failures

posted by  tbaxleyjr

Won't there be idling problems then or probelms when you just give engine some RPMS on neutral? Because in my case, those two are fine, it's during the driving when thing acts funny... :ohcrap:

posted by  chronomaster

not always if we are talking bad wires. A loose connection will be noted at idle

posted by  tbaxleyjr

Just as a suggestion, and I may be wrong, but is it multi-port fuel injected? If that's the case, check the tube between the air filter and the air intake. Look for cracks. If you see one, tape it up with duct tape and see if the car runs any better. If so, replace it. If not, sorry I couldn't help. :)

posted by  akvirgo_75m

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